“PEOPLE CAN BE RESISTANT TO CHANGE, SO YOU BREAK THAT RESISTANCE DOWN BY EMBRACING IT, UNDERSTANDING IT AND PUTTING FOCUS ON IT...”
When David Elattrache stepped in as the general manager of Huggins Honda in 2009, he knew that some changes would be inevitable to keep the dealership competitive for its future. After all, technology changes, facilities change and customers needs change. One thing he wouldn’t have to change, however, and something he would come to rely on was the dealership’s team.
“Everyone here has a great work ethic,” Elattrache said. “They’re loyal, with a desire to be the best they can be. We’re not corporately owned. We’re a family business and have a family atmosphere, and that includes all of our people.”
Salespeople face a variety of obstacles in their day-to-day work, from customers looking to get the rock-bottom price to slow sales days to no-show appointments. The ability to maintain a positive mindset is crucial to finding success in sales. While the individual is ultimately responsible for his or her own attitude, management can help to create a supportive, positive atmosphere as well. We recently sat down with Jeremy Todd, sales manager of a western North Carolina dealership, to discuss the role of morale and positivity in the automotive sales game.
Is your service department as clean and well organized as your showroom? Would you like a live feed of your service department as the header on your homepage? Probably not, but the image you project from the service department can make a big impact on your revenue stream. Your customers will visit your service department many more times than they visit your showroom. After all, most people service their automobiles more frequently than they replace them. With today’s competitive automotive environment, keeping a dealership’s service department efficient and maintained can help make them one of the most profitable areas in the dealership.
It’s a New Year. Everyone is hoping to lose all that extra holiday weight, save money or become more organized. Or, if your customers are looking to incorporate their car needs with other goals they made, be sure to let them know your dealership is here to help. But now that it is already February, how many of your customers are still working on their resolutions? Regardless of their progress, why not take the opportunity to remind them?
For example, if a customer mentions that one of their resolutions is to save more money or travel more, this is a great opportunity for your dealership. Your service drive department and sales team can commit to helping them make wise decisions when it comes to car maintenance and upkeep in order to improve their finances and ability to travel more in their car.
After a decade of progress of women gradually emerging as an important and recognized segment of contemporary automotive business, it is frustrating to see statistics from an NADA Workforce Study stating that only 8 percent of women occupy key positions in our national automotive dealerships. This study also reports that women still work in positions of 91 percent office and administrative support, with only 18.5 percent total in the dealerships.
These are disappointing statistics, especially considering the extensive efforts and achievements by female professionals in key positions, and such factors as women being recognized as the decision makers in purchasing automobiles, and their extensive influence in most levels of business and personal decisions. Then, just why do these statistics exist?
I have had a few calls from people about last month’s article about using the “Apple Experience” in your dealership’s service drive to retain customers. The main question that kept coming up was how to set up this type of program. This month, I will try to outline the steps I would take to develop this experience in a dealership.
One of the things I suggested was to get more Millennial and newly graduated college students into our business. How would you create a “wow” buying experience for the customer after they purchased their car? How would you set up a brand new profit center by developing a public relations manager? How would you get better penetration on F&I products? And, finally, how would you pay for it all? Let’s drill down on some of these things in a little more depth.
Today, dealerships need a Website that provides a personalized shopping experience and allows the shopper to have a social connection and feel they know the people with whom they are planning to do business. How did we get here and where will we go next? Let’s examine the path we took to where we are today and then peer into the future and what our online shopping experience may look like in years to come.
Dealerships started putting up Websites in the 1990s — some with inventory and pricing and some without. Many did this on their own with help from a smart niece or nephew. Others hired companies — some that specialized in automotive and others that did not — to help them. Some resisted the need for a Website altogether but, with the rise of Website-providing vendors and mass adoption, this resistance was soon proven futile. Dealership Websites moved from an extravagance to a necessity at light speed.
The best way to gain and retain customers is by providing services that other dealerships won’t, and making sure that the customers know you value their business. Happy customers not only continue to do business with you, but will often pay more if they value the relationship. In my years in the car business, I’ve seen a trend in customer satisfaction proven out time and again: The people who pay more are generally happier and the people who negotiate the best deals are usually not as happy. Happiness and satisfaction are based on the customer’s perceived value of your dealership and services, and perception is reality.
Last month, we went over ways your dealership can change customer perception by making the most of online reviews and enhancing your dealership’s value proposition. This time, I’ll conclude by examining other ways to build your dealership up in the eyes of your customers.
Today’s average car buyers go to 1.6 dealerships before they buy a car. They do not move on from that first dealership because they don’t like the brand. They move on because they don’t like the dealership.
With a turnover rate for dealership salespeople of 72 percent, customers who want to become loyal to a dealership cannot find anyone there long enough to become loyal to. Sales force turnover parallels customer turnover.
How can your dealership attract the kind of talented, career-oriented staff who understand that, in today’s market, you don’t sell someone a car — you help them buy it — and that is what earns a customer’s long-term loyalty?
You offer them hope.
I know this will come out after the big show but, as I’m writing this article, I’m sitting on the plane traveling to NADA right now. As I do, I’m overhearing a couple of dealers in the row behind me talk about the vendors they have appointments to see during the convention and what solutions they are looking for those vendors to bring to the table.
I was in their position back in my retail days and I have to say, I’m impressed. It sounds like they’ve done their homework, know why they’re going and have a clear view about what they want to accomplish. When I was a multi-point executive manager and dealer and would go to NADA, I didn’t have an agenda. My only goal was to check out the latest-and-greatest that would help me achieve my humble goal of becoming the No. 1 franchise of my brand. I figured since it was the NADA convention everyone must bring value to the table.